4 Great Virtual Events Reimagined for the COVID-19 Era

By redback

Organisations haven’t let the grass grow under their feet as the nation grapples with the best way to ease restrictions designed to control the COVID-19 pandemic, launching some amazing virtual events so far in 2020.

Many of these would have taken place in the physical world — or not at all — if it wasn’t for the Coronavirus outbreak.

But necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Those organisations that pushed ahead with their event plans in recent months had to think laterally and be creative to make these initiatives work online.

Here are just a few of our favourites — there have been many others — spanning a range of sectors, from technology and construction to the arts.


One World: Together At Home

Industry sector: The Arts (Pop music)

Format: Eight-hour global concert, streamed online on sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, the final two hours of which were also shown on television networks around the world

Why we like it: Reinvented the live aid benefit concert for a virtual world

Global Citizen, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and pop star Lady Gaga co-organised the eight-hour live-streamed benefit concert, which raised $127 million for Coronavirus relief efforts.

The concert, featuring Gaga, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones, Keith Urban and Delta Goodrem — among many other singers, bands and celebrities — offered intimate performances from global stars performing at home as they self-isolated along with the rest of us during the coronavirus crisis.

The concert aimed to support frontline healthcare workers and the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and was billed not as a fundraiser but a “moment of respite”, although corporations and philanthropists were encouraged to dig deep.

While the ambitious event was streamed live, many of the 115 performers pre-recorded their segments to make the online concert feasible as switching between so many performers around the world, using many different technology platforms, would have been impossible.

Downer Regional Rail Project Industry Briefing

Industry sector: Construction

Format: Online supplier briefing streamed online, followed by breakout sessions featuring live Q&A in virtual chat rooms

Why we like it: The first ever online industry briefing Downer had held not only kept this rail project on time and kickstarted the flow of jobs in regional Australia at a time of rapidly rising unemployment, it also over-achieved targets by 400%, changing the way future briefings are likely to be held.

At the beginning of large construction such as regional rail projects, construction giant Downer would normally hold a physical meeting in a local Town Hall somewhere in the regional area in which the project is occurring to brief local suppliers and companies about how to get involved and tender for parts of the project.

Downer brings in speakers to present in person, while local contractors and suppliers can attend and ask questions. About 100 people is considered a good turnout for these events as the project area can span several hundred kilometres and not everyone wants to drive two hours to attend.

For this industry briefing in March, Downer opted to transform its planned face-to-face event into an online webinar featuring nine speakers — with some presenting live from Redback’s Melbourne studios, some appearing in pre-recorded videos, and others presenting live remotely from their home.

After a live Q&A session, attendees could break off into separate online chat sessions to learn more about whichever part of the project for which they were interested in tendering.

Downer not only had 500 potential suppliers register for the event and close to 400 attend, the process enabled the company to start a dialogue with many suppliers that wouldn’t have occurred in a face-to-face format.

“I would never do it again the old way,” said Downer’s Stakeholder and Communications Manager Kate Ryder. “I’m going to recommend we do this every single time.”

Melbourne Digital Concert Hall

Industry sector: The Arts (Classical music)

Format: Full program of concerts to be live-streamed online

Why we like it: While many venues have launched free virtual performances and asked for donations to support artists, the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall is selling tickets to live-streamed performances.

Like other performance artists, classical musicians have been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting mass gatherings.

However, a group of Melbourne musicians launched a digital version of a concert hall to host streamed classical music concerts during the coronavirus pandemic.

The group booked out the Athenaeum Theatre for four months, installed cameras and microphones and established social distancing so the performers let themselves in, perform on stage then leave, when the set is sanitised ready for the next performance.

There’s a full season of events, just as there would be in a regular concert hall, but tickets are selling at the reduced price of $20 per performance. Attendees are warned to follow the instructions to stream their online concert at the appointed time as the concert is only streamed once — just like a physical event.

All revenue from the ticket sales go directly to the artists, who have had many recitals cancelled due to the closing of concert venues. In its first two weeks, the series raised $35,000 from ticket sales, with some musicians in tears because they were able to make rent payments as a result.

Salesforce Live

Industry sector: Technology

Format: Online conference

Why we like it: One of the first major brands to elect to go ahead and reinvent a massive local event for the virtual world rather than cancelling it due to COVID-19.

Salesforce is famous for its huge B2B conferences and networking events, and reinvented its Sydney World Tour for an online world in just 13 working days as restrictions began to be implemented to control the spread of Coronavirus.

While the event had been scheduled to take place in a physical venue, featuring more than 150 sessions, it was slimmed down and eventually featured more than 100 speakers online.

While many of them were live-streamed from physical studios with appropriate social distancing, some speakers pre-recorded their sessions. The company also recreated the trade show and exhibition hall element of the live event in meeting rooms at its Sydney and Melbourne offices, allowing its software engineers to do live demos in 18 different ‘rooms’, as well as offering live Q&A, and one-to-one consultations.

The event attracted more than 1.5 million views on the day across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, while 80,000 tuned into Salesforce Live via the website.